U.S. Navy veteran runs pro-Russia account that spread leaked docs

  • A former U.S. Navy officer from New Jersey has been identified as the person behind the pro-Russian social media network Donbass Devushka.
  • A Donbass Devushka account reportedly started at least four classified U.S. intelligence documents about the war in Ukraine.
  • There is no evidence that the former Navy officer behind the account was responsible for stealing classified information or originally posting such material.

A new report on Sunday identified the person behind a pro-Russian social media account that shared leaked classified documents as a former U.S. Navy officer from New Jersey.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that Sarah Bils, a former U.S. enlisted aviation electronics technician, has been posting online as a Russian blogger known as Donbass Devushka.

Bils hosts podcasts under the name of Donbass Devushka and runs several social media accounts, which is where she reportedly shared files that included at least four classified U.S. intelligence documents about the war in Ukraine.

Last week, Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s intelligence wing, was arrested after he was identified by U.S. officials as the suspect in the documents leak. The classified files that were leaked included details about NATO military support for Kyiv and evaluations of Ukraine’s forces. The investigation that led to Teixeira’s arrest came after the documents were shared across various social media ahead of Easter weekend, including on sites associated with Donbass Devushka.

This image shows an undated stock image of a person using a computer. A new report says a former U.S. Navy officer is behind a pro-Russian social media network that shared the recently leaked U.S. classified documents about the war in Ukraine.
Bill Hinton/Getty

The Wall Street Journal said that Bils, 37, acknowledged during an interview that she is an administrator of the Donbass Devushka accounts, but she said a group of 15 people run the Donbass Devushka network.

According to the Journal, the various Donbass Devushka accounts—which use YouTube, Twitter, Telegram and Rumble—”are among the most widely followed English-language social-media outlets promoting Russia’s views.”

The Journal said that larger Russian social media accounts began sharing allegedly leaked classified documents after the Donbass Devushka reportedly posted four of the documents on April 5.

Bils told the Journal another administrator was behind the documents being posted, and the newspaper wrote that there is no evidence that Bils has stolen any classified information. There is also no evidence that anyone associated with Donbass Devushka was involved with the theft or original posting of government secrets.

On Monday, the Donbass Devushka Telegram account wrote that once it became known that documents posted by its account were likely leaked from the U.S. government, they were immediately removed and deleted.

The same Telegram account describes itself as engaging in “Russian–style information warfare,” and the network’s sites have sold merchandise promoting both Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s formal military as well as the Wagner Group of mercenaries.

Though she presents herself as being from Donbas online, the Journal said Bils was born in New Jersey and served at the U.S. naval air station on Whidbey Island in Washington State until late last year. She was first outed as being American on Saturday by the North Atlantic Fella Organization (NAFO), a group of pro-Ukrainian intelligence analysts and activists.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy via email for comment.

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